Here are some tips I have discovered since I have been working at home.
Get up, shower & dress and go to work
Even if your office is in your house. My “standard” work attire is jeans or a skirt, but the last place I worked 9-5 … that was the “norm.” Never, I repeat NEVER work in your PJ’s. It makes you too comfy in your office and blurs the line between fun on your PC and really working on your business.
Set the hours and adhere to them. Let’s say your regular work day is going to be 9-5. That means you can run errands from 7-9 in the morning. If you work 8-3, then from 3-5 you run errands. Unless your errands are a 10 minute drive to the post office, do not run errands during your lunch hour (or half hour).
Speaking of food, eat lunch at 12:00 or 12:30
Leave your office and go into the kitchen for 30 minutes to have lunch, read today’s snail mail and do personal things, like flipping a load of laundry. Set your kitchen timer if you need to, to ding in 30 minutes and go back to work.
It is healthy to stand up and walk around every hour. So at the bottom of each hour, I get up and go into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee or tea, run the dog out to his outside run (or bring him in), let the kitties in/out, run upstairs to grab something, etc. No more than 5 minutes just to keep you mobile … your back, eyes, neck and body will thank you.
The lonely factor
Using your calendar, schedule time to network. I do volunteer work for the local police department … unfortunately, I have the tendency to meet the wrong people, but it’s how I get out & about. You can also offer your services (you may want to consider a discounted rate for some of these places) at local schools, public library, police & fire departments (they might need help on a mailing, labels, etc.), town offices, local businesses (I help out the oil delivery company we use with folding & stuffing their statements).
When I first started, I sent out emails to locals I knew, then did some quick research on businesses in town and also sent emails. I followed up with calls and invited similar businesses out to breakfast at a local diner – and I scheduled our get together right after the weekly Rotary Club meeting 😉
Also, there are many online groups for VA’s & freelancers and they are a great place for relationships to blossom … the members are there for you and to help, support, encourage and offer assistance for other VA’s. So use this hidden tool to keep your morale up.
If you are a real social butterfly, read your local newspaper on your off time to and find out what’s happening in town. Now … call up some former co-workers, friends, parents … you name it. Plan and go! Crafts fairs, fall festivals, theatre (even high school shows are fun), town events …you name it. GO!
Don’t forget to always have a stash of business cards with you to hand out to people you meet at these events … and smother your friends with cards.
Sweeties & Children
Although I don’t have any children, I have neighborhood kids/grandkids aplenty. I’m chummy with most of the little ones and love them to come over for iced tea or lemonade and cookies. Since my office is in the front room, close to the street and almost always has the door open, most of the kids know the “house rules.” They are:
- Absolutely no one is to be in my office unless I am there. You can see me at my desk before you reach the door.
- Knock on the door … quietly … and wait for a “come in”
- If there is no answer, come back later. If your little ones are at home, I would just enforce a “come in quietly & be patient” policy. Healthy treats, or dog/cat petting are helpful in educating your kids about your work status.
- If I am on the phone, they can sit in the adjoining room and goof around quietly. Sometimes when I am busy concentrating on a data scrape script, I tell them that I’m thinking HARD and “when you get old, the cobwebs might catch on fire, so give me an extra minute to concentrate.” They laugh … but get the point.
- Make sure their parents know they are coming.
- Bringing a friend is fine, but it is their turn to be a grown up and teach them my house rules.
I have a 160 year old house, so I installed heavy French doors in the hallway leading to my office. When my hubby insists on having the TV at 900 freaking decibels, those doors are great! Very little noise makes it way out here. If it is possible, you may want to consider soundproofing your walls. You can also use area rugs clipped and hung on sturdy curtain rods as a low cost, yet decorative, method. You may also consider making part of your office their space. “Their” obviously refers to the little ones in your home. My office is rectangular with my desk & equipment on one end and a blanket for dogs & cats on the other side. I also have a tiny 26 gallon aquarium with small fishies and a vase with bamboo and a betta swimming around on my desk.
Taking that thought concept, you could put a nook for reading, coloring, or any other non-noise making activities that your children like. Absolutely no TV, DVD’s, videos or video games. If you have more than one child, no board games or any other toy that they will end up fighting with each other with, during the course of their play time. Encourage coloring, painting and my passion – reading. My cousin (who has 5 children) has a corner for her 9 year old (the oldest) to paint. His easel, canvas, paints, etc. are all there and it gives him quiet time to paint what he visions – a hard thing to do with so many other little ones around. Finally, get your kids involved in the Friday Rule. Friday’s Rule is ‘Never leave your office dirty.’ That means on Friday afternoon, the trash gets taken out of the office, recyclables are put in their respective bins, machinery/hardware/desk/etc. are dusted and cleaned (kids love canned air, but be careful). If you burn weekly backups to CD/DVD, let them cut the paper with the jacket contents or label the disks.
Your honey should be supportive. It is essential that they realize that you are working, not just home all day. My husband insisted that since I was home all day, that meals would be ready, the house would be clean, the laundry would be done … all because I was home all day. That changed quite quickly when I cut back on all those “housey” things to build my business. He now brings home take out 1-2 nights a week. I cook the rest, but he now does the dishes. He never used to sort his laundry or turn his clothes inside-right … he does now. Also, he realizes that even though I am home, it doesn’t mean he can have a delivery or service man come to the house to fix, service, or install something … without him being here. It’s just not safe and on those special days, he is here (and usually driving me nuts) while some stranger is roaming through my house. At the end of the day, YOU are the one who needs to recognize that it is a job. It is a career path that you have chosen. Once you start treating working at home as job, all the rest will fall into place.
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Image credit: home office by velkr0 | CC0 Public Domain